PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – The generosity of Indian country was in full display at the National Congress of American Indians’ annual conference where tribal leaders and delegates pulled out their checkbooks and donated more than $284,000 for the Embassy of Tribal Nations and the National Indian Council on Aging.
The conference, which took place in Palm Springs, Calif., the second week of October, drew representatives from more than 100 tribal nations.
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community in Prior Lake, Minn., and the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians in Valley Center, Calif., contributed $100,000 and $50,000, respectively, for the Embassy of Tribal Nations in Washington, D.C.
Keith Anderson, the Shakopee secretary/treasurer presented the $100,000 pledge to outgoing NCAI President Joe Garcia.
“On behalf of the community and its people who allow us to come here and present these types of things, it’s my honor and privilege on behalf of the community and Chairman Stanley Crooks and Vice Chairman Glynn Crooks,” Anderson said.
“We want to commend NCAI for its tireless work. I know the issues never end and all are equally important and it’s a tireless job. So on behalf of my community I would like to present NCAI a check for $100,000 as we will do every year. We’ll continue to do so for as long as we can.”
“I’ve got to see what it looks like,” Garcia said, opening the envelope. “It’s great. The spirit of Indian country is building,” he said, thanking the nation with a prayer in his Ohkay Owingeh language.
Gilbert Parada, a council member of the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, recalled visiting Washington’s Embassy Row more than a dozen years ago and saying, “How come we don’t have one?”
“Today it’s a reality. We have it now,” Parada said.
Speaking on behalf of the Rincon Band, Parada said his people are happy to donate the $50,000, because they remember what it was like to be poor.
“Back when we were poor, we didn’t have what we have today. Rincon people are sharing people. We didn’t have it before; we have it now so we share. Our hearts are always in it. We know what it was like back then when we didn’t have it.”
The tribal nations’ embassy in Washington, D.C, has been a long standing vision of the NCAI. The organization launched a capital fundraising campaign five years ago with an initial $1 million challenge pledge from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community followed by a $1 million donation from the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation.
This year, NCAI purchased a building at 1516 P Street NW near Embassy Row where many foreign embassies and diplomatic facilities are located. The purchase price of around $8 million included costs for some upgrades.
“We want to retire this debt as fast as possible,” said W. Ron Allen, chairman of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and NCAI treasurer. He displayed a list of past contributors, thanking everyone for their donations.
“We really appreciate their willingness to step up and share the success they’ve had through NCAI.”
The organization has been “reinvigorated” and energized by the purchase of the Embassy of Tribal Nations, said NCAI Executive Director Jackie Johnson Pata.
“The embassy itself signified and symbolized a new environment for us and we want it to have the power of Indian country and be stronger than ever in Washington, D.C.,” she said.
NCAI has rented office space in a carriage house adjacent to the Native American Rights Fund and the Native American Contractors Association.
The embassy purchase also helped establish NCAI financial standing as an organization that has sustainability, Johnson Pata said.
NCAI moved into the building in May and will hold a gala opening Nov. 3. All NCAI members, every Congress member and various national civil rights organizations have been invited.
The fundraising at NCAI surpassed the council’s goal of raising $100,000 by Nov. 1.
An appeal from the National Indian Council on Aging raised a total of $134,339 from dozens of tribal representatives and delegates.
The council is a nonprofit organization founded in 1976 by members of the National Tribal Chairmen’s Association. Its mission is to advocate for improved, comprehensive health and social services to American Indian/Alaska Native elders.
NICOA is governed by a 13-member board of directors made up of AI/AN. It has 1,299 members representing elders from 356 tribes.